Category: Resourceful Young Children | Formalisation of human resource development | 20 August, 2012 - 15:44← BACK
The Centre for Social development's lessons learned by supporting ECD practitioners
South Africa has some of the most progressive ECD policies but there are no effective frameworks in place to promote ECD. Although there may be some rapid growth in ECD provision, the type of ECD service is often of poor quality with no professional benchmarks, few training opportunities and lack of recognition for ECD professionals. The poorest and most vulnerable groups are still receiving poor quality service. According to recent statistics, of the one million children that start Grade 1 each year, less than a quarter make it to Grade 12, of which an eighth achieve a Grade 12 pass. The tragedy of the South African National discourse on education is that too much emphasis is being placed on the top end of the problem with educational interventions aimed at Grd 11 and 12 and little or no investment being made into the most important phase of a child’s development and education, the early years.
The vastness and rurality of the Eastern Cape means that we do not have a good understanding of local realities in the ECD sector. There is also the added challenge of a lack of capacity which is critically disadvantaging the delivery of high quality ECD programmes in this province. The teachers themselves are generally poorly educated, with limited or no previous exposure to preschool education. Their formal training if any, has been effective to the extent that it gives them only foundational understanding of ECD, but there are various problems when it comes to implementing, in a practical manner what they have learned in theory. They also have limited access to books, toys and other learning equipment. As a result, many of the programmes that are implemented remains of poor quality.
The Centre for Social Development (CSD) has been offering quality ECD practitioner training for the past 30 years across the Eastern Cape Province. The model used is based on the recognition that pre‐school centres should be the foundation of a community based facility that can serve as the foci for meeting development and wider social and cultural needs. The model draws on decades of experience in implementing a holistic social development model of Early Childhood Development (ECD) that involves utilising preschools, as established entities in local communities, as the engine of community development activities. It also involves a shift to a community development paradigm that combines interventionist, community-based education with social development goals. These social development goals are clearly articulated around a firm understanding of government’s development imperatives as reflected in key policy statements envisioning a people driven process of development that is based on the reduction of poverty and inequality and the creation of a socially just society.
This is the first year of a two year programme that provides extensive training in both theoretical and practical aspects of ECD. Fifteen ECD practitioners from the Debenek community in the Eastern Cape have started the training in 2011 in an effort to upgrade the own teaching skills, the way in which their educational programmes as well as provide adequate resources for their ECD site. All these interventions are aimed at meeting the child’s developmental needs. The additional community development volunteers trained parallel to the ECD practitioners will be able to develop and augment programmes offered at the sites which support the young children and their families. These include accessing social services and finding out about adequate nutrition, promote health care, and other community development processes. The expected outcomes of the training will address the apex priority areas for change in ECD. These are:
Participation in the course will benefit the practitioners themselves, the centres in which they work the lives of the young children they care for and their families' lives.
The Keiskammahoek area in the Eastern Cape Province is made up of several villages of which the Debenek community is one. Within this community there are also several homesteads making up small settlement areas. It is an impoverished rural area with high levels of unemployment and an increasingly high prevalence of HIV-AIDS. The community realised that they are struggling to provide adequately for the development of young children, and approached the Centre for Social Development to provide ECD training. They have identified the important need for community-based ECD centres that can provide children with quality, holistic and sustainable care and play a support role to their families.
Because CSD was approached by a group of practitioners to implement training, the strategy is to take these practitioners through the two year accredited Level 4 practitioner course. This will provide them with a National certificate in ECD and provide them with an opportunity to enrol in a National Diploma in ECD (Level 5). This course will provide them with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes that will allow them to implement quality ECD programmes at their sites and also teaches them to effectively manage their schools. The CD component will equip the volunteers attached to the ECD sites to develop the capacity of the parents and caregivers of the children in their centres to support those children's optimum development.
The Level 4 ECD course is made up of 15 modules that are covered over a 24 month period (5 –day sessions) per module. They receive teaching and learning materials and are given assignments that are continuously assessed. In addition a trained assessor visits each of the practitioners' sites to monitor the implementation of what they have learnt.
The Level 1 CD course is made up of seven modules delivered over a 12 month period. They also receive teaching and learning materials and assignments are based on practical community interventions that they need to deliver at the ECD site.
Monitoring and Evaluation
As part of the monitoring process, the course trainers will assess the practitioners' implementation of what they have learnt during follow-up visits to their sites, and give them detailed feedback. They will also mark the assignments and all students are expected to have a Portfolio of Evidence detailing their lessons and how it was delivered.
A monitoring and evaluation tool has been designed by CSD to profile the ECD sites as well as what is available in terms of infrastructure, resources, financial and managerial support.
Implementation thus far
The number of children directly benefitting after a year of the project totals 457. The delivery of the training has been that the CDS facilitators (ECD and CD) travel to Debenek for each contact session and conducts the 5 day training session for each module at the local community hall. The benefit of having both the CD and ECD together in the same location (different classes) creates a collegial and supportive atmosphere amongst the practitioners and often challenges and solutions are shared between the two groups. This has also been beneficial for creating the linkages necessary between the CD volunteer and the ECD practitioner. In addition it has also had the added benefit that CSD is not seen as an “outsider” but rather as a training organisation that really cares about the community. This is also reflected in the zero drop-out rates that we have experienced.
Many new prospective students have already approached the CSD facilitators enquiring about a new intake after this project is completed.
Impact and lessons learned
The long term impact of the training is lasting and sustainable as it directly builds and develops human capital and resources. However because of the vastness of the area and the number of new potential ECD sites, this training should be continued to include new practitioners. The integrated model of training is beneficial in establishing clusters of best practice which can serve as learning satellites for similar groups. It also has the potential to become multi-sectoral and intergovernmental as it provides an entry point for various other initiatives to function, ultimately developing the ECD site into a multi-purpose community site. This is in line with policies and strategies which call for an integrated approach to ECD.
If such initial training is offered, there should be a plan in place that allows these newly certified practitioners the opportunity to enrol in a Level 5 diploma, thereby further strengthening and enhancing capacity and knowledge.
If this project continues, a closer linkage should be sought with the local municipality in an effort to collaborate with them to deliver on their Integrated Development Plan which includes an ECD responsibility. Although it has many benefits to do training in the community, it also places a huge demand on the CSD facilitators who have to be away from CSD for long periods. This has highlighted the fact for us that in addition to building capacity in ECD practitioners we also need to build and expand capacity of facilitators that would be able to conduct similar training in various sites around the Eastern Cape. At the completion of this training, we should ideally be able to identify practitioners that could be developed to become facilitators that would be able to conduct similar training in their own communities. This implies developing a Training of Trainers short course that could become accredited to offer an additional entry to a potential career path for ECD practitioners. This could be beneficial for the professionalization and recognition of this sector.
Already this project has allowed us to forge a partnership with a community group in Debenek South that will do a comprehensive survey of all ECD sites in their villages, allowing us to map the contextual landscape of ECD in some parts of the Eastern Cape Province.
P.O Box 94 Grahamstown Eastern Cape South Africa